Originally published June, 2017
It’s Father’s Day Weekend!
Time to hike up your socks, fire up the grill, lean back in your favorite chair and say things like …”Hold your horses!” and “”My house, my rules!” shortly followed by “I don’t know… go ask your mother.”
With the popularity of Justin Halpern’s hilarious Shit My Dad Says to the emergence of the soft and lovable physique known as the “dad bod” and cringe worthy “dad jokes”, pop culture has declared being a dad cool and hip.
And on this rare occasion, I agree with pop culture. Being a dad is cool.
We carry pocket knives.
We clog then unclog toilets.
We treat wounds with dirt and spit.
We pride ourselves on knowing where things are located in Home Depot.
We play golf.
We build fires.
We embarrass our children.
We consider it a declaration of war when we spot a field mouse scurrying across the kitchen floor.
We have a spatula with our name engraved on the handle.
But of course with this “coolness” comes great responsibility.
It has occurred to me that my children are seeing me through the same lens in which I saw my dad when I was their age.
In their young eyes I’m all powerful, all knowing. My actions, my “dadvice” are seared into their little brains and one day (God forbid) may serve as good blog fodder about fathers.
To highlight the power and coolness of being a dad here are 5 pieces of dadvice my dad offered me many years ago…
1.On eating a big breakfast every morning
My father has always championed the need for a hearty breakfast. Dad scoffed when those FDA “nitwits” claimed that eating highly processed foods–loaded with sodium and saturated fat could be deadly.
My dad (like a lot of dads) has a signature dish. A culinary cuisine that he describes in with great pride to the other dads at the CYO meetings. My dad’s Spam and Egg sandwich is one of the reasons I had friends as a kid. His signature sandwich is a 900 calorie heart-stopper made with only the finest pasteurized cheeses and slaughterhouse scraps.
I remember once asking him why he needed to eat such a big breakfast every morning. He looked down at me with serious eyes and said “Who knows if or when I’ll have the opportunity to eat again today.” Which seemed a bit dramatic –like something Lewis said to Clark on the first morning of their Continental Divide expedition. But it was also funny too– because as he said this dad was packing his work lunch box/cooler with a week’s worth of food.
*I should also mention that at this time dad spent most of his working life and passed a Burger King every 8oo feet.
2.On boosting confidence
In grade school, for some school project , I was forced to work with the smartest kid in the class who openly teased me– claiming that he was smarter than me. Upon hearing my complaint, dad looked at me, smiled and said, “But can this Einstein hit a curve ball?”
3.On medical care
Once when mom wasn’t home, I threw my younger brother Kyle into a wall joint leaving him with a gash in his head and blood streaming down his face. Dad, who was outwardly annoyed that Kyle’s melon had dented the drywall, carried Kyle into the bathroom, dropped him in the tub, offered him a roll of paper towels and said, “Wait here until mom gets home.”
4.On eating expired food
“Do you think George Washington had expiration dates on his ground beef?”
When I was in my early 20’s I begin thinking about proposing to Cindy. But naturally I was hesitant. I wanted to know how to know someone was “the one”. Dad met mom when he was 17 and seemed to have the whole love-thing mastered. So I sought council in dad. I was certain that he had some sage advice to offer on the matter of love.
So one day I ask him how did he know mom was the one. And after a long, thoughtful pause dad looked at me and said “I just knew.” End of conversation.
6.On the most important thing to do in life
Next week, I will be delivering the commencement address at Robbinsville High School.
An opportunity granted after I was named the Robbinsville Public School District Teacher of the Year.
I’m flattered and humbled to have this opportunity to speak at high school’s penultimate event. I’m not threatened by speaking in front of 2,000 people however, for the past few days I was growing concerned about finding the right subject to talk about.
Really, what do I say to a stadium full of people, sitting under the June sun on metal bleachers, who can’t wait until I’m finished talking?
For the last few days I’ve been engaged in some heated brainstorming sessions, considering what the 18-year-old version of me want to hear? Need to hear?
Now there were a ton of things I needed to hear…
You’re not as cool as you think you are.
Talk less, listen more.
Make time your friend, not your enemy.
Opinions don’t matter.
Take care of your knees.
But after all the brainstorming I settled on a simple truism to guide my writing, “be honest, tell the truth.”
My dad is and always has been a mild man.
But nothing poked his ire more then catching me in a lie. I remember, on many occasions, his blue eyes drilling holes through mine as he pressed me, interrogated me on the inconsistencies of my stories.
And now, when I’m questioning my own children on their stories, I can feel my dad’s eyes, I can hear his voice, “Be honest, tell the truth.”
The more complicated life gets, the more evasive truth becomes.
We dangerously mark truths with a capital “T” only to endure bouts of moral terror and heartbreak and doubt and question if capital “T” truth ever existed.
We get mixed up. We lose our authenticity and integrity.
We replace our own truth with the opinions and perspectives of others, distancing ourselves from the person we want to become.
I want to thank my dad for instilling the importance of truth and honesty in me. How honesty is the foundation of every relationship you will build in your life.
Like everyone, writers are wrestlers, constantly trying to pin down the squirming truth.
I realize now (as I write this sentence) that this blog, my writing and the life I’m striving for pays homage to my father’s stare, to his endless work of trying to get me to be honest and tell the truth.
Happy Father’s Day!